Category Archives: Feast Days

On St. Bartholomew – and “his” Massacre

“One morning [at] the Louvre,” with Catherine de’ Medici – in black – who authored the massacre

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Welcome to “read the Bible – expand your mind:”

This blog has three main themes.  The first is that God will accept anyone.  (See John 6:37.)  The second is that God wants us all to live lives of abundance (See John 10:10.)   The third is that God wants us to do even greater miracles than Jesus.  (See John 14:12.)

And this thought ties them together:

The only way to live live abundantly and do greater miracles than Jesus is to read the Bible with an open mind.  For more, see the notes below or – to expand your mind – see the Intro.

In the meantime:

August 24 was the Feast day for St.  Bartholomew, also known as Bartholomew the Apostle.  Unfortunately, he is perhaps best known for the famous massacre on his feast day in 1572:

The St. Bartholomew’s Day massacre … in 1572 was a targeted group of assassinations and a wave of Catholic mob violence, directed against the Huguenots…  Though by no means unique, it “was the worst of the century’s religious massacres.”  Throughout Europe, it “printed on Protestant minds the indelible conviction that Catholicism was a bloody and treacherous religion.”

This particular massacre occurred during “the French Wars of Religion.”  (Those wars lasted some 40 years – beginning in 1562 – and resulted in the deaths of some 3,000,000 people.)  A more modern illustration of such “mob violence” is shown above left.

And on a personal note:  My French ancestors – who came to America to get the hell away from such religious “conservatives” – were Huguenots.  (“French Calvinist Protestants.”) 

But before talking more about this one massacre, here’s some information on the saint at issue.

See for example the article CATHOLIC ENCYCLOPEDIA: St. Bartholomew.  (Note the irony.)  It said the name “Bartholomaios” means “son of Talmai” (or Tholmai), but that little else is known about him.  “Many scholars, however, identify him with Nathaniel.”

See for example, John 1:45-51:  “Philip found Nathanael and told him, ‘We have found the one Moses wrote about…  Jesus of Nazareth, the son of Joseph.'”

And so our August 24 “St. Bart” is generally identified as the famous Nathanael who Jesus saw – in the first chapter of the John’s Gospel – sitting under the fig tree.

For more see Bartholomew the Apostle – Wikipedia.  It noted a number of traditions about this saint, including that he went on missionary journeys to India, or in the alternative to “EthiopiaMesopotamiaParthia, and and Lycaonia.”  But the best known tradition is this:

He is said to have been martyred in Albanopolis in Armenia.  According to one account, he was beheaded, but a more popular tradition holds that he was flayed alive and crucified, head downward.  He is said to have converted Polymius, the king of Armenia, to Christianity.  Astyages, Polymius’ brother, consequently ordered Bartholomew’s execution.

Which may mean that if you want to convert one king to Christianity – or some other powerful leader of a country – you probably want to convert all his brothers as well.

For the Bible readings for the day, see St. Bartholomew, Apostle.  And there’s a painting at the bottom of the main text – by Michelangelo of Saint Bartholomew displaying his flayed skin.”

Which brings us back to the St. Bartholomew’s massacre.  As Wikipedia noted, in the years since 1572 the massacre “has inevitably aroused a great deal of controversy.”  (Adding that “Modern historians are still divided over the responsibility of the royal family,” including Catherine de’ Medici, seen in black in the painting at the top of the page.)

But perhaps the best answer came from Pope John Paul II.  In August of 1997, and while in Paris,* he issued a statement on the Massacre:

On the eve of Aug. 24, we cannot forget the sad massacre of St. Bartholomew’s Day… Christians did things which the Gospel condemns.  I am convinced that only forgiveness, offered and received, leads little by little to a fruitful dialogue…  Belonging to different religious traditions must not constitute today a source of opposition and tension.  On the contrary, our common love for Christ impels us to seek tirelessly the path of full unity.

And speaking of “fruitful dialogue,” the Pope’s comments in 1997 pretty much mirror what the Apostle Paul said in Romans 12:1-8 – the New Testament reading for Sunday, August 27:

For as in one body we have many members, and not all the members have the same function, so we, who are many, are one body in Christ, and individually we are members one of another.  We have gifts that differ according to the grace given to us…

In other words, maybe it’s about damn time that we started celebrating our differences.  As opposed to flaying each other alive.  (Metaphorically or otherwise…)

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“Saint Bartholomew displaying his flayed skin…”

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The upper image is courtesy of St. Bartholomew’s Day massacre – Wikipedia.  The full caption:  “‘One morning at the gates of the Louvre,’ 19th-century painting by Édouard Debat-Ponsan.  Catherine de’ Medici is in black.  The scene from Dubois (above) re-imagined.”

“Note” also that an asterisk in the main text indicates a statement supported by reference detailed in this “notes” section.  Thus as to the “modern illustration of mob violence,” the image is courtesy of the mob violence or “riot” link in the first indented paragraph.  The caption:  “Law enforcement teams deployed to control riots often wear body armor and shields, and may use tear gas.”

The Jesus-and-fig-tree image is courtesy of Jesus, Philip, Nathanael and the Fig Treesacredstory.org.  

Re:  Pope John Paul II’s 1997 statement.  He issued it on August 23, the eve of St. Bartholomew’s Day, in the city where the massacre took place.  Note also the poignant painting by “Pre-Raphaelite painter John Everett Millais,” who…

…managed to create a sentimental moment in the massacre in his painting A Huguenot on St. Bartholomew’s Day (1852), which depicts a Catholic woman attempting to convince her Huguenot lover to wear the white scarf badge of the Catholics and protect himself.  The man, true to his beliefs, gently refuses her.

Googling the phrase “celebrate our differences” got me some 115,000,000 results.

Re:  Being “flayed alive.”  Wikipedia noted that the practice, “known colloquially as skinning, was a method of slow and painful execution in which skin is removed from the body.  Generally, an attempt is made to keep the removed portion of skin intact.”  The article added this:

Dermatologist Ernst G. Jung notes that the typical causes of death due to flaying are shock, critical loss of blood or other body fluidshypothermia, or infections, and that the actual death is estimated to occur from a few hours up to a few days after the flaying.  Hypothermia is possible, as skin is essential for maintaining a person’s body temperature, as it provides a person’s natural insulation.

The lower image is courtesy of Wikipedia.  The full caption:  “Saint Bartholomew displaying his flayed skin in Michelangelo‘s ‘The Last Judgment.'”

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As noted in the opening blurb, this blog has three main themes.  The first is that God will accept anyone.  (John 6:37.)  The second is that God wants us to live abundantly.  (John 10:10.)   The third is that God wants us to do even greater miracles than Jesus did.  (John 14:12).  

A fourth main theme is that the only way to do all that is read the Bible with an open mind:

…closed-mindedness, or an unwillingness to consider new ideas, can result from the brain’s natural dislike for ambiguity.  According to this view, the brain has a “search and destroy” relationship with ambiguity and evidence contradictory to people’s current beliefs tends to make them uncomfortable…  Research confirms that belief-discrepant-closed-minded persons have less tolerance for cognitive inconsistency

So in plain words, this blog takes issue with boot-camp Christians.  They’re the Biblical literalists who never go “beyond the fundamentals.”  But the Bible can offer so much more than their narrow reading can offer…   (Unless you want to stay a Bible buck private all your life…)

Now, about “Boot-camp Christians.”  See for example, Conservative Christian – “Career buck private?”  The gist of that post is that starting the Bible is like Army Basic Training. You begin by “learning the fundamentals.”  But after boot camp, you move on to Advanced Individual Training

Also, and as noted in “Buck private,” I’d previously said the theme of this blog was that if you really want to be all that you can be, you need to go on and explore the “mystical side of Bible reading.*”  

http://www.toywonders.com/productcart/pc/catalog/aw30.jpgIn other words, exploring the mystical side of the Bible helps you “be all that you can be.”  See Slogans of the U.S. Army – Wikipedia, re: the recruiting slogan from 1980 to 2001.  The related image at left is courtesy of: “toywonders.com/productcart/pc/catalog/aw30.jpg.”

*  Re: “mystical.”  As originally used, mysticism “referred to the Biblical liturgical, spiritual, and contemplative dimensions of early and medieval Christianity.”  See Mysticism – Wikipedia, and the post On originalism.  (“That’s what the Bible was originally about!”)

For an explanation of the Daily Office – where “Dorscribe” came from – see What’s a DOR?

Perverting “Fundamental” – ism…

Alexander Louis Leloir, Jacob Wrestling with the Angel, 1865 http://necspenecmetu.tumblr.com/post/15803982029/alexander-louis-leloir-jacob-wrestling-with-the

Jacob wrestling with the angel” – or with God – something a Fundamentalist would never do…

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Last Sunday, August 6, was the Feast day for The Transfiguration of Jesus.  And Tuesday, August 15, is the Feast of St Mary, the Virgin.  But first, a word about “perverting Fundamentalism.”

In the religious sense, Fundamentalism indicates “unwavering attachment to a set of irreducible beliefs.”  Or in the alternative, it indicates a faith “characterized by a markedly strict literalism.”

But the main theme of this blog is that such “markedly strict literalism” results in a closed mind.  And a whole set of Christians who are only cheating themselves.   And a set of Christians who are driving away potential converts “in droves.”

I’ve referred to such close-minded literalists as boot-camp Christians, or as “Comfort Zone Christians.”  Yet another descriptive term could be “half-way Christians.”  As in, Christians who go only half way in building up their spiritual “mansion.”  They put in a foundation, as in “an underlying base or support; especially:  the whole masonry substructure of a building.”

Which makes this a good time to note that the word “fundamental” comes from the late Middle English – Medieval Latin – term fundāmentālis , meaning of or “belonging to a foundation.”

But then these Christians don’t build anything on top of that foundation.  That results – spiritually speaking – in something like the image at right:  A “foundation,” with noting built on top of it.  Or put this way:

The theory or theme here is that people who read the Bible in a strict, narrow or “fundamental” way are only cheating themselves.

(See About the Blog.)  The result is that they have “perverted” the original sense of the word “fundamental;”  they have altered that term “from its original course, meaning, or state to a distortion or corruption of what was first intended.”  Instead of laying a foundation, and then building a spiritual house on top of it, they’re happy living on just the foundation itself.

 And they end up living a barren, “spirit-less” life, contrary to John 4:24: “God is spirit, and his worshipers must worship in the Spirit and in truth.”  (Not to mention, 2d Corinthians 3:6:  “the letter kills, but the Spirit gives life.”)  Not only that, these too-iiteral fundamentalists end up – spiritually speaking – sleeping, eating and living only on a cold, concrete foundation, and thus effectively in a hole in the ground.  That’s the metaphor for the day anyway…

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On a more positive note:  Last Sunday, August 6, was the Feast day for The Transfiguration of Jesus,  For more on that see On the Transfiguration of Jesus – 2016, and/or The Transfiguration – The Greatest Miracle in the World.  One key point is that it’s arguably the “greatest miracle in the world” because – unlike the other miracles of Jesus – this one happened to Him.   All the other miracles involved Jesus doing things for other people.

But the key point there is that the Transfiguration “stands as an allegory of the transformative nature” of the faith of the Bible.  That is, the allegory of undergoing a “marked change, as in appearance or character, usually for the better.”

But you can’t do that if you read the Bible too literally.

And finally, Tuesday, August 15, is the Feast of St Mary, the Virgin.   For more on her see On St. Mary, Mother, and/or St. Mary the Virgin, and/or Mary, mother of Jesus – Wikipedia.

The key point there is that this Mary had to undergo quite a transformation herself…

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Sassoferrato - Jungfrun i bön.jpg

“The Virgin Mary in prayer” – by Sassoferrato – circa 1650.

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The upper image is courtesy of Alexander Louis Leloir, Jacob Wrestling with the Angel.  I’ve used the image in previous posts, including On arguing with God and On “originalism.”

The image to the left of the first main paragraph is courtesy of a 2012 post by Peter Enns, the “American biblical scholartheologian, and writer…  Outside of his academic work Enns is a contributor to HuffPost and Patheos,” and is “best known for his book Inspiration and Incarnation, which challenged conservative/mainstream Evangelical methods of biblical interpretation.”  The post is titled Why I Don’t Give up on Fundamentalists (including the not nice ones), and includes these thoughts:   1) “Fundamentalists are human beings and therefore are of infinite worth,”  2)  “Fundamentalists are my brothers and sisters in the faith,” and  3)  “Some fundamentalists are on a journey out of fundamentalism, even if they do not yet know it, and they need a place to land.”

The “‘foundation,’ without anything built on top of it” image is courtesy of Construction of the administrative building foundationszfk.ru.  

Re:  Spiritual “mansion.”  See John 14:2, translated in the King James Bible:  “In my Father’s house are many mansions:  if it were not so, I would have told you. I go to prepare a place for you.”

The lower image is courtesy of the Marian perspectives link at Mary, mother of Jesus – Wikipedia.  The caption:  “The Virgin in Prayer, by Sassoferrato, c. 1650.”  (Or in the alternative:  “Jungfrun i bön(1640-1650). National GalleryLondon.”)   Also, for a thorough analysis of how the term has evolved over the years, see What Is “Fundamentalism” and Who Is a “Fundamentalist?”

On Mary of Magdala and James the Greater, Saints

Tizian 009.jpg

A “Penitent Magdalene,” by Titian (1565)…

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And speaking of getting back on track,* we just had two major feast days.   Last July 22 – a Saturday – was the feast day for Mary Magdalene.  And last Tuesday, July 25, was the Feast Day for James, son of Zebedee.  He was also known as “St. James the Greater.”

mm-he-qiMary of Magdala was “the Apostle to the Apostles.”  (As noted in last year’s post.)  Which she did “despite a sordid past and a really lousy reputation.”  (She’s seen at right, in a modern interpretation.)  But there’s some thought that – in being tagged as a prostitute – she got mixed up with the “sinner who anoints Jesus’ feet in Luke 7:36-50.”  (“Mary” was a common name back then.)

Then there’s another thought:  That her lousy reputation was due to “jealous males trying to  sully her reputation.”  Put simply, she showed a heck of lot more courage than all the male Apostles did after Jesus’ crucifixion.

That is, while they cowered behind closed doors, she braved the danger and went out to become “the first person to see the empty tomb of Jesus, and one of the first – if not the first – to see the risen Jesus.”  That’s one reason that St. Augustine referred to her as the “Apostle to the Apostles.”  But it could also explain other efforts to trash her reputation:

Mary of Magdala is perhaps the most maligned and misunderstood figure in early Christianity…  Since the fourth century, she has been portrayed as a prostitute and public sinner…   Paintings, some little more than pious pornography, reinforce the mistaken belief that sexuality, especially female sexuality, is shameful, sinful, and worthy of repentance.  Yet the actual biblical account of Mary of Magdala paints a far different portrait than that of the bare-breasted reformed harlot of Renaissance art.

Guido Reni - Saint James the Greater - Google Art Project.jpgOn a more positive note, July 25 was the Feast Day for James, son of Zebedee.  He’s one of several “James” in the New Testament. (“Mary” and “James” were both common names in  New Testament times.)  But this James is also called “St. James the Greater.”  (That post included the image at left, of St. James.)

And incidentally, this St. James is the Patron Saint of Pilgrims.

See for example, the September 2016 post On St. James, Steinbeck, and sluts.  The “sluts” in question were mentioned by Robert Louis Stevenson in his ground-breaking 1879 work Travels with a Donkey in the Cévennes.  (It was considered a “pioneering classic of outdoor literature,” and the inspiration for John Steinbeck‘s 1962 nonfiction work, Travels with Charley.)

The point being that I’ve gone on a few pilgrimages in my time, and am fixing to go on another one this September:  Hiking the Camino de Santiago in Spain.  And in the  Sluts post, I noted that in the spiritual literature of Christianity, the concept of pilgrim and pilgrimage may refer to “the inner path of the spiritual aspirant from a state of wretchedness to a state of beatitude:”

The post also said a pilgrimage can be  “one of the most chastening, but also one of the most liberating” of personal experiences.  Which occurred after last year’s hike on the Chilkoot Trail:

For my part, I certainly felt “chastened” after we got back to Skagway from the Chilkoot Trail.(Although the 10-of-12 beers that my nephew and I shared – of the two six-packs I bought – helped a lot too.)  And I had a blister-on-a-blister that got infected – that didn’t fully heal until three weeks after the hike – to further heighten the feeling of getting “chastened.”

Which brings us back to St. James the Greater, who is the Patron Saint of Pilgrims.

In the picture below, St. James is seen accoutred as a pilgrim, complete with the accessories “needed for a task or journey.”  That is, he is shown wearing a pilgrim’s hat and with a walking stick in the background.  And here’s part of the prayer to St. James:  “O Glorious Saint James … Obtain for us strength and consolation in the unending struggles of this life.”

To which we all might add a hearty Amen, “So be it!

Especially as to those blisters-on-blisters that get infected.  (The two-six-pack cure:  Optional.)

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 St. James the Greater, dressed and accoutred as the quintessential Pilgrim

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The Penitent Magdalene is a 1565 oil painting by Titian of saint Mary Magdalene, now in the Hermitage Museum in Saint Petersburg.  Unlike his 1533 version of the same subject, Titian has covered Mary’s nudity and introduced a vase, an open book and a skull as a memento mori.  Its coloring is more mature than the earlier work, using colors harmoni[z]ing with character.  In the background the sky is bathed in the rays of the setting sun, with a dark rock contrasting with the brightly lit figure of Mary.

That is, Titian did a “racier” version in 1533.  See Penitent Magdalene (Titian, 1533) – Wikipedia.

Note” also that an asterisk in the main text indicates a statement supported by a reference detailed further in this “notes” section.  Thus as to “getting back on track,” that refers to getting back to the business of Bible-related posts, after “Comfort Zone Christians,” and The “Bizarro Rick Santorum.”

The Bible readings for the two feast days can be seen at Mary Magdalene, and St James, respectively.

The image to the right of the paragraph including “shown at right in a modern interpretation” was originally courtesy of “FutureChurch.”  A re-check of the link on July 30, 2017, showed that it included information on Mary Magdalene, but no longer included the “modern” image.  

The lower image is courtesy of James, son of Zebedee – Wikipedia, with the full caption, “Saint James the Elder by Rembrandt[.]  He is depicted clothed as a pilgrim;  note the scallop shell on his shoulder and his staff and pilgrim’s hat beside him.”

Paul describes an out-of-body experience

An irreverent view of an out-of-body experience, described by Apostle Paul in 2d Corinthians. 12:2-4

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The Daily Office Bible readings for Thursday, June 15 included 2d Corinthians 12:1-10.  That reading included 2d Corinthians 12:2-4.  That’s the passage where the Apostle Paul described an apparent out-of-body experience:

I know a man in Christ who fourteen years ago was caught up to the third heaven.  Whether it was in the body or out of the body I do not know – God knows.  And I know that this man – whether in the body or apart from the body I do not know, but God knows – was caught up to paradise and heard inexpressible things, things that no one is permitted to tell.

incidentally, this Third Heaven is a “division of Heaven in religious cosmology.”  The concept is common to Judaism, Christianity and Islam, and in “some traditions it is considered the abode of God.”  In other views it’s seen as “a lower level of Paradise, commonly one of seven.”

Be that as it may, this business of “third heavens” and out-of-body-experiences is way too complicated for today’s post.  The point I’m making is that there’s more to the Bible than meets the eye, and that you can’t fully appreciate it with a narrow-minded literalist approach.

For one thing, according to Paul the idea of heaven – “third” or otherwise – involves things that “no one is permitted to tell.”  (No one who’s been there anyway…)  Which fits in with John 21:25:

Jesus did many other things as well.  If every one of them were written down, I suppose that even the whole world would not have room for the books that would be written.

That is, Jesus “did many other things” that weren’t written down in the Bible.  Which leads me to say again:  “There’s more to the Bible than meets the eye.”

Which makes this the perfect time to mention that June 15 is also the Feast Day for Evelyn Underhill (1875-1941).  She’s the English author known for “numerous works on religion and spiritual practice, in particular Christian mysticism.”

Put another way, her main teaching was “that the life of contemplative prayer is not just for monks and nuns, but can be the life of any Christian who is willing to undertake it.”

Which is also pretty much the theme of this blog.

I discussed Evelyn Underhill in the May 2014 post, On a dame and a mystic.  That post in turn was mainly about Dame Julian of Norwich, described as follows:

She was born in 1342 and died “about” 1416.  As Wikipedia noted, she was an English anchoress regarded as an important early Christian mystic.   (That clunk you heard was a Southern Baptist having apoplexy over the word “mystic.”)

Which is another way of saying that the “terms ‘mystic‘ or ‘mysticism‘ seem to throw Southern Baptists and other conservative Christians into apoplexy.  (‘Try it sometime!!!‘)”  See On the Bible and mysticism, and The Christian repertoire.  But the gist of both posts – and this blog as a whole – is that that “there’s more to the Bible than meets the eye.”  And also that you “can’t fully appreciate that by using a narrow-minded literalist approach.”

A drill sergeant posing before his companyWhich is another way of saying that in reading the Bible, you don’t want to be one of those boot-camp Christians,” as shown at left.  (That is, the “Biblical literalists who never go ‘beyond the fundamentals.’”)

On that note, consider what the Apostle Paul said about the “mysteries” of the Bible.  As told in St. Mark’s “Cinderella story,” Christianity has arguably been – all along – a “mystical” religion, full of mysteries; “secret, hidden, not readily known by all:”

For example, see 1st Corinthians 2:7, where Paul spoke of “the word of God in a mystery, even the hidden wisdom.”  He spoke of the “knowledge in the mystery of Christ” in Ephesians 3:4, and of the “fellowship of the mystery” in Ephesians 3:9.  In Ephesians 5:32 he wrote, “This is a great mystery:  but I speak concerning Christ and the church.”  Paul told Christians to “make known the mystery of the gospel” in Ephesians 6:19, and to hold “the mystery of the faith” – or the “deep truths” – in a “pure conscience” in 1st Timothy 3:9.  He said that “great is the mystery of godliness” in 1st Timothy 3:16, and in 1 Corinthians 4:1, Paul said that Christians were to be faithful “stewards of the mysteries of God.”

Which is what makes reading and studying the Bible – and applying it to your own life – so fascinating.  Instead of going to church to become “mass produced carbon copies of each other,” Christians who go beyond the fundamentals find their lives have become a “fascinating detective story.”  (“You’ll be like Charlie Chan, unraveling the mysteries of life…”)  

In other words, the theme here is that the Bible was written to liberate us, not shackle us.  In other words, this blog says you develop more by reading the Bible with an open mind.  And that if you read it too literally, you’re only cheating yourself.  Or as a great philosopher once put it:

Mind like parachute.  Work best when open.”

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http://ecx.images-amazon.com/images/I/51smUOfD0aL.jpgMysticism, one way of “unraveling the mysteries of life…”  
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The upper image is courtesy of Out-of-body experiences are harder to remember | Ars Technicaarstechnica.com.  The article included a discussion of the “region of the brain called the hippocampus,” which “acts as a sort of stenographer, integrating all the goings-on in the brain into a record that can be encoded into memory.” 

The caption for the out-of-body image:  “A 19th-century illustration of Robert Blair‘s poem The Grave, depicting the soul leaving the body.”

The full Bible readings for July 15, 2017:  “AM Psalm [70], 71; PM Psalm 74Ecclus. [Ecclesiasticus] 44:19-45:5; 2 Cor. 12:1-10; Luke 19:28-40.”

Re: Evelyn Underhill.  See also the Wikipedia article on her.

Re:  “Carbon copy Christians.”  See How to Break the Cookie-Cutter, Carbon Copy Christian Cycle:

Churches, wittingly or otherwise, often taken on the role of mass producing assembly lines. Each Christian is instructed in the same way, given the same set of rules, a particular sanitized clothing lines of music selection, and specific speculative interpretations of scripture which they must abide by.  Churches such as these are not interested in creating unique Christians but mass produced carbon copies of each other.

The lower image was borrowed from The basics.

Mary’s Visitation – and Pentecost – 2017

Sassoferrato - Jungfrun i bön.jpg

“The Virgin Mary in prayer” – by Giovanni Battista Salvi da Sassoferrato – circa 1650.

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We have two major feast days coming up.  On Wednesday, May 31, we remember the Visitation of the Blessed Virgin Mary.  (As it’s formally known.)  See also Visitation – Wikipedia, and On the Visitation – 2016.  (That post featured the image at left, of Jesus as a young boy, holding a candle for His father, Saint Joseph.)

Then on June 4 we celebrate the Day of Pentecost.  It’s also known as Whitsunday, for reasons explained further below.

Pentecost Sunday is also referred to as the “Birthday of the Church,” for reasons explained in the 2015 post, On Pentecost – “Happy Birthday, Church!”  On a related note, Pentecost – alias “Whitsunday” and the “Birthday of the Church” – has yet one other name it goes by.  And that name is related to Glossolalia:

Pentecost [as] described in Acts “was a momentous, watershed event..”  For the first time in history, God had empowered “all different sorts of people for ministry.  Whereas in the era of the Old Testament, the Spirit was poured out almost exclusively on prophets, priests, and kings,” on Pentecost the Holy Spirit had been given to “‘all people.’  All would be empowered to minister regardless of their gender, age, or social position.”

But aside from empowering “all people” to  be ministers of the Church, that “yet another name” for Pentecost is Tongue Sunday.  For one thing there were the “tongues of fire” that appeared that day, as noted in Acts 2:3:  “They saw what seemed to be tongues of fire that separated and came to rest on each of them.”  Then too there was the “talking in strange languages.”

Congreso Nacional Juvenil3.jpgSome witnesses to that first Pentecost took the talking-in-strange-languages to  be “drunken babbling.”  (On the part of the members of this new sect – the early Christian Church.)  But as Isaac Asimov  made clear, they were speaking “in concrete, known languages.  As a result, people from a host of different nations could understand them.”  Or as told in Acts 2:4,  “All of them were filled with the Holy Spirit and began to speak in other tongues as the Spirit enabled them.“  

On the other hand, these days “Glossolalia is practiced in Pentecostal and Charismatic Christianity as well as in other religions,” as shown above right.  On the “other other hand,” some Christians feel this kind of fervor misses Jesus’ point entirely.  (And actually drives potential converts away rather than bringing them into the Church.  See e.g. On snake-handling “redux,” which includes the image below left, with the caption:  “The snake handler on the right” – whose nickname could well be “Stumpy” – “is arguably taking Mark 16:18 “out of context…” )

Or as was stated in Luke 24:45, “Then He [Jesus] opened their minds so they could understand the Scriptures.”  (It seems “close-mindedness” is a key part of such a too-literal reading of the Bible, as discussed in the notes.  See too Ascension Day 2017 – “Then He opened their minds.”)

But getting back to Whitsunday.  Wikipedia said this alternate term for Pentecost is a contraction of of the term “White Sunday.”  As to why it was called that, one theory says that shortly after the Norman Conquest, the Old English word white (“hwitte”) began to be confused with the word “wit or understanding.”  Another theory says the “name derives from the white garments worn by catechumens,” those to be “baptised on that Sunday.”  Yet another theory:  The young women of England all came “to church or chapel in new white dresses on that day.”

Whatever the reason, “As the first holiday of the summer, Whitsun was one of the favorite times in the traditional calendar and Whit Sunday, or the following week, was a time for celebration.”  As such this religious feast day has been superseded by Memorial Day, which It marks the “unofficial start of the summer vacation season.”  (“Labor Day marks its unofficial end.”)

Either way, the upcoming week is a great time to remember the heroic deeds of the past…

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A typical Western image of the Pentecost. Duccio di Buoninsegna (1308) Tempera on wood.

“A typical Western image of the Pentecost…”

(By Italian artist Duccio di Buoninsegna, in the year 1308…)

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The upper image is courtesy of the Marian perspectives link at Mary, mother of Jesus – Wikipedia.  The caption:  “The Virgin in Prayer, by Sassoferrato, c. 1650.”  (Or in the alternative:  “Jungfrun i bön (1640-1650). National Gallery, London.”)  It image was featured in On the Visitation – 2016.  As indicated above, for further information on Pentecost see Ascension Day and Pentecost – 2016On the readings for Pentecost (6/8/14), and On Pentecost – “Happy Birthday, Church!”

Re: Isaac Asimov.  See Asimov’s Guide to the Bible (Two Volumes in One),  Avenel Books (1981). 

Asimov (1920-1992) was “an American author and professor of biochemistry at Boston University, best known for his works of science fiction and for his popular science books.  Asimov was one of the most prolific writers of all time, having written or edited more than 500 books and an estimated 90,000 letters and postcards.”  His list of books included those on “astronomy, mathematics, theBible, William Shakespeare’s writing, and chemistry.”  He was a long-time member of Mensa, “albeit reluctantly;  he described some members of that organization as ‘brain-proud and aggressive about their IQs.’”  See Isaac Asimov – Wikipedia.

The lower image is courtesy of the Wikipedia article on Pentecost.  And re:  Duccio di Buoninsegna: Born about 1250 and died about 1318, Buoninsegna was “considered to be the father of Sienese painting and, along with a few others, the founder of Western art.”  As to the year 1308, among the few notable events that we know of:  “January 25 – King Edward II of England marries Isabella of France.  They are both crowned a month later (on February 25).”  And on October 13 – “Walter Reynolds is consecrated Archbishop of Canterbury, in England.”

On Saint Dunstan – May 19

St. Dunstan “shoeing the Devil’s hoof” – thus creating the Lucky Horseshoe superstition…

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May 19 is a Feast Day.  (Albeit a “minor one.”)  It celebrates St. Dunstan, who died in 988.

Among other things, Dunstan originated the Good Luck Horseshoe superstition.  For another, he created the British coronation ceremony that continues “even to this day.”  And finally, he once aroused such jealousy that he got beaten up, tied up and thrown into a cesspool.

But ultimately, he became popular.  Or as Wikipedia noted, “Until Thomas Becket‘s fame overshadowed Dunstan’s, he was the favorite saint of the English people.”  Which means that for a long time – back in the days of Merrie Olde England – St. Dunstan was “more popular than Richard Burton.”

(Burton played Becket in the 1964 film of the same name.  Peter O’Toole played King Henry II, on whose orders Becket was killed.)

So anyway, over a thousand years ago St. Dunstan rose through the ranks of the then-Catholic Church in England, and eventually became Archbishop of Canterbury.  And some centuries later – after King Henry VIII broke with the Roman Catholic church – the Archbishop of Canterbury became the “senior bishop and principal leader of the Church of England,” and also the “symbolic head of the worldwide Anglican Communion.”

Which means that for a long time – a thousand years ago – Dunstan was pretty important:

His work restored monastic life in England and reformed the English Church…  Dunstan served as an important minister of state to several English kings.  He was the most popular saint in England for nearly two centuries, having gained fame for the many stories of his greatness, [including] those concerning his famed cunning in defeating the devil.

As shown in the image at the top of the page…

The story there is that one day the Devil asked Dunstan – skilled as a silversmith and metalworker – to shoe his horse.  But instead, Dunstan nailed a horseshoe to the Devil’s hoof.  “This caused the Devil great pain, and Dunstan only agreed to remove the shoe and release the Devil after he promised never to enter a place where a horseshoe is over the door.”

Which led to the Lucky Horseshoe Superstition.  (There’s an ongoing debate on whether the shoe should be hung “up” or “down,” detailed in the notes.)

Now about that being “beaten up and thrown into a cesspool.”

When he was young – and after first entering the service of the Church – he got appointed to the court of King Athelstan.  (Circa 894-939.)  He soon became a court favorite, which made the other “favorites” jealous.  They accused him of witchcraft and black magic and – after the king ordered him to leave – his enemies attacked him, beat him severely, tied him up and threw him into a cesspool.  (A modern version of which is seen at left.)  

Ironically, that experience may have led him back to the priesthood.  That is, after he managed to get out of the “muck” – literally – he made his way to the home of his  uncle, Ælfheah, Bishop of Winchester.

Uncle Ælfheah tried to persuade Dunstan to become a monk, but he had his doubts.  (Which isn’t surprising.)  For one thing, he wasn’t sure he had the “vocation to a celibate life.”  For another, there was that experience in the court of King Athelstan.  However:

The answer came in the form of an attack of swelling tumors all over Dunstan’s body. This ailment was so severe that it was thought to be leprosy.  It was more probably some form of blood poisoning caused by being beaten and thrown in the cesspool.  Whatever the cause, it changed Dunstan’s mind.

And ultimately led him to be named the Archbishop of Canterbury

But wait, there’s more!  That is, for more on this saint, see St. Dunstan, at the Satucket (Daily Office) website.  It noted a contest of wills between Dunstan and the newly-crowned King Eadwig. (Also spelled “Edwy.”)  The new king was 16 years old at the time, and when he reacted like a normal 16-year-old – newly freed from all restraint – Dunstan “rebuked [him] for unchastity.”

That led to Dunstan’s being exiled and a near-civil-war.  However:

When the dust settled, Edwy was dead, his brother Edgar was king, and Dunstan was Archbishop of Canterbury.  The coronation service which Dunstan compiled for Edgar is the earliest English coronation service of which the full text survives, and is the basis for all such services since, down to the present.

Or as  Wikipedia, put it:  “This service, devised by Dunstan himself … forms the basis of the present-day British coronation ceremony,” as shown in the photo below.

And finally, there’s a connection to Ascension Day, which we just celebrated:  “On Ascension Day in 988, he told the congregation that he was near to death, and died two days later.”

So here’s to Dunstan, who gave us the Lucky Horseshoe, created today’s British coronation ceremony – and even survived being beat up, tied up and thrown into a cesspool

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The upper image is courtesy of Dunstan – Wikipedia.  The full caption said that Dunstan was “shoeing the Devil’s hoof, as illustrated by George Cruikshank.”  

The “Richard-Burton-as-Becket” image is courtesy of Becket (Blu-ray) (1964) … oldies.com.  See also Becket (1964 film) – Wikipedia and Becket (1964) – IMDb.  Note also that the phrase “more popular than Burton” is an allusion to the “More popular than Jesus” hubbub in 1966.  (At which time yours truly was a mere 15 years old.)  The “hubbub” arose from a comment by John Lennon:

During an interview, he argued that Christianity was in decline and that it may be outlived by rock music, explaining … “Jesus was all right but his disciples were thick and ordinary.  It’s them twisting it that ruins it for me.”  The comment drew no controversy when originally published in the United Kingdom, but angry reactions flared up in Christian communities when it was republished in the United States five months later…  Shortly after the controversy broke, Lennon reluctantly apologised for the comment, saying “if I had said television was more popular than Jesus, I might have got away with it.”  [E.A.]

Re:  The “horseshoe debate.”  See Horseshoe Superstition … Hanging Over Doorway.

The lower image is courtesy of Coronation | The Royal Family, which noted:

The coronation ceremony, an occasion for pageantry and celebration, but it is also a solemn religious ceremony, has remained essentially the same over a thousand years.  For the last 900 years, the ceremony has taken place at Westminster Abbey, London.  The service is conducted by the Archbishop of Canterbury…

 

Ascension Day 2017 – “Then He opened their minds…”

 “Jesus’ ascension to heaven,” by John Singleton Copley – after He “opened their minds…”

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The next major Feast Day commemorates the Ascension, and this year comes on May 25.  This Feast commemorates the “bodily Ascension of Jesus into heaven,” and is “ecumenical.”  (That is, it’s “universally celebrated.”)  In terms of importance it ranks up there “with the feasts of the Passion, of Easter, and Pentecost.”

It’s always celebrated on a Thursday, the 40th day of Easter.

More precisely, it’s celebrated on the 40th day of Eastertide, the 50-day church season running from Easter Day to Pentecost Sunday.

On that note, last year – 2016 – Ascension Day was celebrated on May 5.  (See Ascension Day and Pentecost – 2016, a post featuring the image above left, with the caption:  “Before Jesus could Ascend into Heaven, He had to Descend into Hell….”)

Which is another way of saying that since Easter Sunday is a moveable feast – a “liturgical event that comes on a different date each year – all the other feast days measured after Easter get shifted around too.  (Like Ascension Day and Pentecost.)  And all that’s not to be confused with A Moveable Feast.  That’s the title of Ernest Hemingway‘s memoir – published posthumously in 1964 – about his years as a struggling young writer in Paris in the 1920s.

And just as an aside, the title of Hemingway’s memoir was a “play on words for the term used for a holy day for which the date is not fixed.”  (Like Christmas, always celebrated on December 25.)  Which is as good a definition as any, but we digress!!!

More to the point, you can see the full Bible readings for the feast at Ascension Day.  Or you could check out two other prior posts, On Ascension Day 2015 and – from 2014 – On Ascension Day.  (That year it was celebrated on May 29.)  

The event itself was described in Luke 24, which starts with the first Easter day – “the women” finding the empty tomb – followed by the Road to Emmaus appearance.  That’s followed in turn by the last of the post-Resurrection appearances of Jesus.  The two disciples at Emmaus had gotten up and “returned at once to Jerusalem.  There they found the Eleven and those with them, assembled together.”  Jesus then appeared in the midst of all of them, and taught them things; i.e., He “opened their minds so they could understand the Scriptures.” (E.A.)

On that note see Luke 24:45, which – BTW – pretty much sums up the main theme of this blog.

And finally, Jesus led the disciples out of the room and on out of Jerusalem.  See Luke 24:50-51:

When he had led them out to the vicinity of Bethany, he lifted up his hands and blessed them.  While he was blessing them, he left them and was taken up into heaven.

File:Leloir - Jacob Wrestling with the Angel.jpgAll of which may be pretty hard to believe, but that’s also addressed in 2014’s On Ascension Day.  It talked about things like Arguing with God – which included the imag at left – and the First law of thermodynamics.  (Which is – I argued – proof positive that the human soul – a definite form of energy – is neither “created nor destroyed, but simply changes form.”)  

The point being that there are some Christians who definitely believe you shouldn’t argue with God.  And there are lots of other people out there who don’t believe the whole idea of life after life – or after death – or for that matter the “bodily Ascension of Jesus into heaven.”

Which brings up Robin Williams’ “Top Ten…”

To explain:  If you type “ascension day” in the search box above right, that Top Ten post will be the fourth post down.  (Right before Jesus in Hell.)  Specifically, the list at issue is Robin Williams’ Top 10 reasons to be an Episcopalian.  (Which is definitely one of the “believer” groups.)

One of the key points of Williams’ list:  Stop worrying so much about trying to understand the hard-to-understand parts of the Bible.  (Like the bodily Ascension of Jesus into Heaven.)

Instead, focus on our own “life’s journey, leaving our destination to a ‘Higher Power.’”  That is, “celebrate life as a pilgrimage as the basic metaphor of Christian life.”  Which is one way to turn tragedy into something to laugh at, and so deal with much better.  And so enjoy the pilgrimage:

I have a feeling that somewhere, somehow – “even as we speak” – the spirit of Robin Williams is making some being – some entity – laugh his or her spiritual butt off.

And the key to that approach is reading the Bible with an open mind.  In turn, if anyone objects, we can say we are simply following the example of Jesus as told in Luke 24:45:

Then he opened their minds so they could understand the Scriptures.

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Robin Williams in Good Morning Vietnam

Robin Williams in Good Morning, Vietnam. . .

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The upper image is courtesy of the Wikipedia article, Ascension of Jesus, with the full caption:  “Jesus’ ascension to heaven depicted by John Singleton Copley, 1775.”   

The lower image is from Channel 4 News apologises for Robin Williams gaffe.  The “gaffe” came after Williams‘ death-by-suicide on August 11, 2014:  “Broadcaster criticised after tribute to late actor features ‘get a rope and hang me’ quote from Good Morning Vietnam.”  The Gaffe post added this:

Channel 4 News has apologised after airing a clip of Robin Williams in Good Morning Vietnam saying: “Get a rope and hang me,” a day after the star’s suspected suicide. . .  Channel 4 came in for criticism for the gaffe.

On Saint Philip, Saint James, and “privy members”

Rubens apostel philippus.jpg

Philip the Apostle – the saint we know is being celebrated on Monday, May 2…”

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Monday, May 1, was the  Feast Day of and for Saint Philip and Saint James.  I covered these two saints in last year’s Philip and James – Saints and Apostles.

That post included the painting of St. Philip at the top of the page.  (Along with the “quotated” caption discussed further below.*)  It also included the photo at right – of Clint Eastwood as Dirty Harry – along with the mock caption:

“So, punk, do you feel like getting chastened and liberated?”  

(The post talked about the kind of ritual – religious and otherwise – that should “pervade a healthy society.”  It also noted that a good pilgrimage – a kind of religious ritual “on the move” – can be “one of the most chastening, but also one of the most liberating” of human experiences.)

But we digress…   The point of the caption at the top of the page is that we know who the “Philip” is that we celebrate on May 1.  We’re not so sure about the “James…”

According to the Satucket (Daily Officearticle on Philip and James – there are eight possible “Jameses” who could be celebrated on May 1.  These include but not limited to:  1) James the Greater (or “James, son of Zebedee”);  James the Less (“either the younger or shorter of two”); and/or James the Just (also known as the brother of Jesus).  At any rate, the full list of eight is included in the notes below.  (And incidentally, that “James the son of Zebedee” is the patron saint of pilgrims and pilgrimages.  See e.g., On “St. James the Greater.”)

But again, even though we don’t know exactly which James is being celebrated on May 1, we do know which “Philip” is being celebrated.

This Philip was the Apostle described in Acts of the Apostles (8:26-40), and the Wikipedia article on Philip and the Ethiopian eunuch. (As shown at left.)   And speaking of last year’s post – Philip and James – Saints and Apostles – it noted that as a eunuch the Ethiopian was an untouchable, at least from a Christian fundamentalist standpoint.

That’s because of Deuteronomy 23:1.  On that note, the New Living Translation is pretty specific (if not graphic):  “If a man’s testicles are crushed or his penis is cut off, he may not be admitted to the assembly of the LORD.”  The King James Bible – the one that God uses – puts the matter more delicately:  “He that is wounded in the stones, or hath his privy member cut off, shall not enter into the congregation of the LORD:”

Yet Philip, guided by God’s Spirit, does not hesitate to share the good news of God’s love and salvation with this less than whole Ethiopian and to baptize him into the faith, to welcome him into the life of the Christian church.  This new faith is for all, God’s love is for every human being no matter what disability or disease or affliction has come our way.

(See “Wesley Uniting Church.”)  In other words, the point of Acts 8:26-40 – and the story of Philip and the Ethiopian eunuch – is that God’s Love is Universal.  

Which is – I suppose – just another way of saying that God will accept anyone.  (As described in John 6:37, where Jesus said, “whoever comes to me I will never drive away.”)  Or see On total love – and “the Living Vine.”  The point of that post as well was, first, that God’s love is universal.

The second point was that we as Christians should try to imitate that all-encompassing love.  Or as Jesus aptly – and succinctly – put it in his summary of the entire Bible:

Hear what our Lord Jesus Christ said:  “You shall love the Lord your God with all your heart, with all your strength, and with all your mind.  This is the first and great commandment, and the second is like unto it:  you shall love your neighbor as yourself.   On these two commandments hang all the Law and the Prophets.

That’s from Matthew 22, verses 37-40, emphasis added.  In plain words, our goal in life should be to “live in full communion,” with both God and even our most obnoxious neighbor.  And be good stewards of nature besides.  (On that note, Earth Day was last April 22.)

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Earth Day Flag created by John McConnell…”

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The upper image is courtesy of Philip the Apostle – Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia.  The caption: “St. Philip, by Peter Paul Rubens, from his Twelve Apostles series (c. 1611), at the Museo del Prado, Madrid.”  That article added:  “In the Roman Catholic Church, the feast day of Philip, along with that of James the Just, was traditionally observed on 1 May, the anniversary of the dedication of the church dedicated to them in Rome (now called the Church of the Twelve Apostles).”  A note:  “James the Just” is third on the Satucket list, just below James the Greater and James the Lesser.

Re:  “Quotated.”  The reference is to part of the lyrics from Alice’s Restaurant.  See also Arlo Guthrie – Alice’s Restaurant lyrics | LyricsMode.com:  

And I filled out the massacre with the four part harmony, and wrote it
Down there, just like it was, and everything was fine and I put down the
Pencil, and I turned over the piece of paper, and there, there on the
Other side, in the middle of the other side, away from everything else on
The other side, in parentheses, capital letters, quotated, read the
Following words:

(“KID, HAVE YOU REHABILITATED YOURSELF?”)

Re:  The full list of eight possible “Jameses” celebrated on May 1:

(1) JAMES THE GREATER: James the son of Zebedee, called James the Greater or James Major or James the Elder, was one of the Twelve Apostles, and also, along with his brother John and with Peter, belonged to what seems to have been an inner circle of Three. He was killed by order of King Herod, as reported in Acts 12:2. (See M 4:21; 10:2; 17:1; P 1:19,29; 3:17; 5:37; 9:2; 10:35,41; 13:3; 14:33; L 5:10; 6:14; 8:51; 9:28,54; A 11:13; 12:2)

St. James Minor, from a 1708 Book of Common Prayer(2) JAMES THE LESS: James the son of Alphaeus (Alpheus) appears on lists of the Twelve Apostles (usually in the ninth place), but is never mentioned otherwise. He is called James the Less, or James Minor, or James the Younger. (See M 10:3; P 3:18; L 6:15; A 1:13)

(3) JAMES THE JUST: James called “the brother of the Lord” appears in Acts 12:17 and thereafter (A 15:13; 21:18; 1C 15:17; Ga 1:19; 2:9,12) as the leader of the Jerusalem congregation. He is counted by later Church historians as the first bishop of Jerusalem, with Simeon (described as also a kinsman, something like a great-nephew of Joseph) as the second. According to the Jewish historian Josephus, James was put to death by order of the high priest during an interval between Roman governors, over the protests of the Pharisees, who thought him an upright man. He is known as James the Just or James of Jerusalem or James Protepiscopus (first bishop).

(4) JAMES THE WRITER: One of the New Testament Epistles is written by a James. (See Jas 1:1)

(5) JAMES THE SON OF CLEOPAS:
John (19:25) lists the women standing by the cross of Jesus as “his mother, and his mother’s sister, Mary the wife of Clopas, and Mary Magdalene.” If this list mentions only three women, then Mary the wife of Clopas is presumably a sister-in-law to the Virgin Mary.
The Synoptists give lists of women apparently at a distance.
Matthew (27:55f) lists as “looking on from afar” some Galilean women “among whom were Mary Magdalene, and Mary the mother of James and Joseph, and the mother of the sons of Zebedee.”
Mark (15:40f) lists “Mary Magdalene and Mary the mother of James the Younger and of Joses, and Salome… and also many other women.”
Luke (24:10) lists “Mary Magdalene and Joanna and Mary the mother of James and the other women with them.”
By “mother of James…” do the Synoptists denote the mother of Jesus? It seems odd that they would omit to mention her if she were there, but odder yet that they would identify her as the mother of James and Joseph (Joses), but not as the mother of Jesus. Besides, we note that Matthew and Mark are speaking of women who stood at a distance, while the Virgin was close enough to hear her Son speak. I therefore assume that Mary the mother of James etc is not the same as the Virgin Mary, and is either not mentioned by John at all or is identical with his “Mary the wife of Clopas,” who is probably the sister-in-law of the Virgin Mary. Conclusion: James the son of Clopas was perhaps the nephew of either Mary or Joseph, and so would have been known as the first cousin of Jesus.

(6) JAMES THE NAZARENE: The residents of Nazareth speak of brothers of Jesus, including one named James (M 4:55 = P 6:3).

(7) JAMES THE KINSMAN OF JUDE THE APOSTLE: When Luke lists the Apostles (L 6:16; A 1:13), he has, in places 9 thru 11, “James the son of Alphaeus, Simon the Zealot, and Judas of James.” [This is not Judas Iscariot.] Now, “Judas of James” would ordinarily mean “Judas son of James,” and so the RSV translates it. However, the KJV renders is as “Judas the brother of James,” and some suppose him to be the brother of James the son of Alphaeus, so that we have no fewer than three pairs of brothers among the disciples: Peter and Andrew, sons of Jonas; James and John, sons of Zebedee; James and Jude, sons of Alphaeus. This seems unlikely, since (a) if Luke had intended us to understand that the two were brothers, he would have written them together instead of separating them by Simon the Zealot (but note P 3:16-18); and (b) if he had meant us to understand “brother of” rather than the more usual “son of”, he would have said “brother.”

(8) JAMES THE BROTHER OF JUDE THE WRITER:   The author of the Epistle of Jude calls himself the brother of James. Presumably this James would be someone well-known to his readers, otherwise why bother to mention him?

Here are the full Daily Office readings for Saint Philip and Saint James “AM Psalm 119:137-160Job 23:1-12; John 1:43-51, PM Psalm 139Proverbs 4:7-18; John 12:20-26.”  For yet another take, see Daily Office update (and “scapegoating.”

The lower image is courtesy of Earth Day – Wikipedia.  See also Remembering the Purpose of Earth Day, and from last year, Pope Francis Urges All People to Protect the Earth On 45th Anniversary of Earth Day.  (For a contrasting take on the “politics” of Pope Francis,” see On the “Gospel of Marx.”)

 

On “Doubting Thomas Sunday” – 2017

“Martyrdom of St. Thomas” – the original Doubting Thomas – on the Malabar Coast of India…

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Resurrection (24).jpgToday is officially the Second Sunday of Easter.

Note the “of,” rather than “after.”  That’s because Easter is “not just one day, but an entire season.”  It’s a full season of 50 days – called Eastertide – that runs from Easter Sunday to Pentecost. (See Frohliche Ostern, which includes the image at left.)

So while today is technically the first Sunday after Easter, it is better known as the Second Sunday of Easter.  Actually, it’s really better known as Low Sunday.  That’s mostly because church attendance falls off so drastically that first Sunday “after.”  (Compared with the high attendance of Easter Day.  See also “CEOs;”  i.e., Christians who only go to church on Christmas and Easter.)

You could also call this day the “Sunday of Many Names.”  For example, it’s known as “Doubting Thomas Sunday.”  That’s mostly because the Gospel lesson always tells the story of the disciple Thomas.  (See e.g. John 20:19-31, “which recounts the story of Christ appearing to the Apostle Thomas in order to dispel the latter’s doubt about the Resurrection.”  Which made him in essence the original – the prototype – Doubting Thomas.”)

And today is known as the Octave of Easter.  (In this case the Octave in question is the eight-day period “in Eastertide that starts on Easter Sunday and runs until the Sunday following Easter.”)

Finally, it’s known as “Quasimodo Sunday.”  But that’s not because of Quasimodo, the guy – shown at right – who is better known as the “Hunchback of Notre Dame:”

Instead, the name comes from a Latin translation of the beginning of First Peter 2:2 , a traditional “introit” used in churches on this day.  First Peter 2:2 begins – in English and depending on the translation – “As newborn babes, desire the rational milk without guile…”  [Or, “pure spiritual milk, so that by it you may grow up in your salvation.”]  In Latin the verse reads:  “Quasi modo geniti infantes…”    Literally, “quasi modo means ‘as if in [this] manner.’”

Since “geniti” translates as “newborn” and the translation of “infantes” seems self-evident, the “quasi modo” in question roughly translates, “As if in the manner” (of newborn babes)…  And incidentally, that character in The Hunchback of Notre-Dame was named after the opening words of First Peter 2:2.  (See The Bible – Lectionary Musings and Color Commentary, and also First musings – The readings for “Doubting Thomas” Sunday, both from April 24, 2014).

As Wikipedia noted, a doubting Thomas is “a skeptic who refuses to believe without direct personal experience, a reference to the Apostle Thomas, who refused to believe that the resurrected Jesus had appeared to the ten other apostles, until he could see and feel the wounds received by Jesus on the cross.”

Aside from the posts noted above, I’ve written about this disciple in Doubting Thomas – and Peter Restored, and Doubting Thomas’ “passage to India.”  The “Passage to India” post noted that according to tradition, Thomas became a  missionary who traveled to India.  That is, he sailed to India in the year 52 AD, to spread the Christian faith:

According to tradition, St. Thomas was killed in 72 AD[, possibly] at Mylapore near Chennai in India…  This is the earliest known record of his martyrdom..   Some Patristic literature state[s] that St. Thomas died a martyr, in east of Persia or in North India by the wounds of the four spears pierced into his body by the local soldiers.

Which is what the painting at the top of the page shows.  Put another way, in his travels Thomas “ultimately reached India, carrying the Faith to the Malabar Coast” – shown at right in red, on the southwestern coast of India – “which still boasts a large native population calling themselves ‘Christians of St. Thomas.’”

On the other hand, the Peter Restored post addressed the question:  If you doubt and question your faith – like Thomas did – will that faith actually grow stronger?

In other words, how do we as Christians deal with our doubts?

The theme of this post is that – for boot-camp Christians – the answer is simple:  You shouldn’t have any doubts.  In other words, you should “blindly believe.”  But for the rest of us there’s another answer, and that answer ultimately provides a stronger Christian faith:

Remember Thomas, the disciple, who wouldn’t believe in Christ’s resurrection until he put his hand into Jesus’s wounds.  He went on to die spreading the gospel in Persia and India.  God gave us free choice, He doesn’t want us to be robots, He could have made us like that, but wanted us to choose for ourselves.  You learn and grow by questioning. (E.A.)

And by doing that you’ll probably end up – spiritually anyway – like the kindly, gentle, learned disciple shown in the painting below.  (Another view of St. Thomas by Peter Paul Rubens.)  And that’s the kind of disciple who could convert people to Christianity even in a continent made up of Hindus and Muslims; that is, an otherwise unfertile continent for conversion, yet “which still boasts a large native population calling themselves ‘Christians of St. Thomas.’”

Which brings up The True Test of Faith.  Somehow Thomas seemed to have the kind of faith that – even if he ultimately found that the whole “Jesus thing” was a hoax – he’d still end up saying, at the end of his life, “You know, I wouldn’t change a thing.”

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Peter Paul Rubens: St Thomas

St. Thomas by Peter Paul Rubens

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The upper image is courtesy of Thomas the Apostle – Wikipedia.  The full caption: “Martyrdom of St. Thomas by Peter Paul Rubens.”

Re:  “Low Sunday.”  See Why Attendance Will Be Low This Sunday, and also Low Sunday | Article about Low Sunday by The Free Dictionary.

The Wikipedia caption for the image of Quasimodo reads:  “Esmeralda gives a drink to Quasimodo in one of Gustave Brion‘s illustrations.”

Re Introit.  Merriam-Webster defines it as either “the first part of the traditional proper of the Mass consisting of an antiphon, verse from a psalm, and the Gloria Patri,” or a “piece of music sung or played at the beginning of a worship service.”  The Gloria Patri generally goes like this:  “Glory to the Father, and to the Son, and to the Holy Spirit, as it was in the beginning, and now, and ever shall be, world without end.  Amen.”

Re:Both from April 24, 2014.”  I apparently published two separate posts on the same topic.

The lower image is courtesy of Peter Paul Rubens: St Thomas – Art and the Bible

Frohliche Ostern – “Happy Easter!”

“An Easter postcard depicting the Easter Bunny…”

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Resurrection (24).jpgToday is Easter Sunday.   That is, the day of the …

… festival and holiday celebrating the resurrection of Jesus from the dead, described in the New Testament as having occurred on the third day of his burial after his crucifixion by the Romans at Calvary [circa] 30 AD.  It is the culmination of the Passion of Jesus, preceded by Lent (or Great Lent), a forty-day period of fasting, prayer, and penance.

And incidentally, the painting above left shows Jesus has “having kicked down the gates of Hades.”  It also shows “Satan, depicted as an old man … bound and chained.”

Which pretty much sums up the Lesson of Easter.  But what’s this about the Easter Bunny?

That tradition – first noted around 1682 – was based on folklore that had already been around awhile, and as practiced by German Lutherans.  In turn, the Easter Bunny – or more accurately, the Easter Hare – “played the role of a judge,” evaluating whether children were good or bad, especially in the days leading up to “the start of the season of Eastertide.”

Which brings up the fact that Easter is “not just one day, but an entire season.”  That full season is also called Eastertide, defined as that long period – 50 days – that runs from Easter Sunday to Pentecost.  (See On Eastertide – and “artistic license”.”  And for more on Pentecost, see “Happy Birthday, Church!”)  But getting back to the tradition of the Easter Bunny:

In legend, the creature carries colored eggs in his basket, candy, and sometimes also toys to the homes of children, and as such shows similarities to Santa Claus or the Christkind, as they both bring gifts to children on the night before their respective holidays.

One author noted the “hare was the sacred beast of Eastre (or Eostre), a Saxon goddess of Spring and of the dawn.”  (The “Saxon goddess” is at right.)  In turn, the goddess – called “Ēostre” or “Ostara” – is the “namesake of the festival of Easter in some languages.”

Ēostre is attested solely by Bede in his 8th-century work The Reckoning of Time, where Bede states that during Ēosturmōnaþ [“Easter-month,” in general, the month of April], pagan Anglo-Saxons had held feasts in Ēostre’s honor, but that this tradition [was] replaced by the Christian Paschal month, a celebration of the resurrection of Jesus.

Which brings up the real reason for the Easter Season.  It’s pretty much summed up in the painting below, by Rembrandt.  (As told in Easter Season – AND BEYOND, from April 2015):

Mary Magdalen had just found Jesus’ grave empty, and asks a bystander what has happened. In her confusion she thinks the man is a gardener.  Only when he replies with “Mary!” does she realize who she’s talking to.  To illustrate Mary’s confusion, Jesus is often depicted as a gardener in this scene.

See also Mark 16:1-8.  And as noted in Easter Season – AND BEYOND, the event celebrated on Easter Sunday has sparked an going debate that continues “even to this day.”  On the one hand there is the idea – illustrated in El Greco‘s “The Resurrection.“  (Q.v.)  It shows the Risen Messiah “in a blaze of glory … holding the white banner of victory over death.”

On the other hand there are all those Doubting Thomases.  They are the “rationalists” among us who “can’t be persuaded by and through any direct evidence of the Resurrection.”  Which is probably why the Sunday right after Easter is also known as Doubting Thomas Sunday.  (See Second Sunday of Easter and/or John 20:19-31, and also Thomas the Apostle – Wikipedia.)

But for those of us who believe, we celebrate this day because – by and through it – Jesus gave us all power to become children of God.  And that ain’t exactly chopped liver

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Rembrandt Harmensz. van Rijn: The Risen Christ Appearing to Mary Magdalen

“The Risen Christ Appearing to Mary Magdalen…”

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The upper image is courtesy of Easter – Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia.

Resurrection (24).jpgThe “Jesus and Satan” image – shown in a larger version at left – is also courtesy of Easter – Wikipedia.  The full caption:  “Icon of the Resurrection, with Christ having kicked down the gates of Hades and pulling Adam and Eve out of the tombs. Christ is flanked by saints, and Satan, depicted as an old man, is bound and chained.”

Re: “Christkind.”  The term refers to “the traditional Christmas gift-bringer,” in parts of Europe and South America. “Promulgated by Martin Luther at the Protestant Reformation  … many Protestants adopted this gift bringer…”  As such, the “Lutheran Church promoted Christ as the children’s gift-giver, hoping to draw attention to the child for whom Christmas was named.”  The Christkind is a “sprite-like child, usually depicted with blond hair and angelic wings.  Martin Luther intended it to be a reference to the incarnation of Jesus as an infant.”  Later, the “Christkind was adopted in Catholic areas of Germany during the 19th century.”

Re: “Power to become children of God.”  See John 1:12, from one of the Daily Office Readings for today, April 16, 2017.  See also Romans 8:14 and Romans 8:16:  “For all who are led by the Spirit of God are sons of God,” and “The Spirit Himself testifies with our spirit that we are God’s children.”

The lower image is courtesy of “The Risen Christ Appearing to Mary Magdalen” – Art and the Bible.  See also Rembrandt – Wikipedia, and/or Rembrandt van Rijn: Life and Work.